Considering Tradition

Meng Zhou is of a generation that has formed its personalities and beliefs during a period of shifting social and economic circumstances, and through a boom in the availability of information and technology. Deeply engaged in the process of artistic creation, the contested notion of metamorphosis and the becoming of oneself within a social environment, Zhou presents his sensibility towards introspective concerns, which he has described as “being incubated and oppressed at the same time.”

A: You often use painting as well as digital works, which reveal subtle nuances. Could you describe your process, and why your practice combines such different media?
MZ: My practice cuts across different media for sure, but in the way that I engage with these various media I do not feel that there are any major differences. My work is always focused on conveying a sense of feeling, a sense of emotion, and in that sense I consider myself a storyteller first and foremost. I am curious about the potentialities of new technologies, and at the same time I’m yearning for the subtle sensitivity of the ancient and traditions. It’s the moments of conversation and conflict between technology and tradition that I find particularly generative.

A: Why do you think it’s important to consider traditional styles?
MZ: I believe that traditional arts have a unique importance – they speak of our shared human heritage. And so whenever I am working I find myself falling back on tradition and history as a way of trying to better understand myself, and the world around me. I hope that doesn’t sound like naïve nostalgia it’s really just my process of understanding.

A: How does your practice combine classical painting with westernised techniques? Do you think it’s relevant to cross geographical borders in today’s political climate?
MZ: I am always looking for new ways to combine and collage different techniques, my process is one of mixing, polluting and pollinating. I’ve had the benefit of practicing as an artist both in China and in Europe and am constantly finding new ways to marry and knot my experiences in both places. It may be small and piecemeal but communicating a sense of our shared human belonging is my way, as an artist, to resist the rhetoric of isolationism and the recent worrying assaults on political progress.

A: Could you talk about the act of dripping and dispersing ink?
MZ: I love the uncertainty of it. Sometimes the dripping guides the painting completely by spilling off in an unexpected direction. In my paintings with ink I am constantly layering effacing my work with more work and this is something that I find particularly interesting, and in a sense, cathartic. Ink has a beautiful iridescent quality when it is layered up almost like a mirror.

A: How does autonomy work throughout your paintings, why is it important that the responsibility of the artist is in flux?
MZ: As an artist it is so important to be in that state of flux, to be able to respond to the changing conditions of the world around us as well as staying attuned to the work.

A: How does the sense of movement enact a narrative / figure within your works?
MZ: A lot of my inspiration comes from contemporary dance and a lot of the figures that I paint are composites of images from memory of contemporary dancers. I love the way that the body is given the capacity to speak for itself through movement.

1. Meng Zhou, Anonym 5, Ink on Paper, (2017).
2. Meng Zhou, Anonym7, Ink on Paper, (2017).
3. Meng Zhou, Anonym 10, Ink on Paper, (2017).